Two major issues which marred Eid al-Fitr prayers in Egypt last year were notably absent from this year’s prayers.
The first of last year’s issues was a feeling of frustration and fear for the future in the shadow of a group that decided to treat citizens like cattle. The second was the Brotherhood’s controlling all squares where prayers are performed. They appeared extremely proud of their power. They stood at the squares’ entrances deciding who the preacher would be, and leading their people however they wanted. Anyone who prayed last year in any village where the Brotherhood controlled the town’s major mosques and youth centers will remember this. The Brotherhood dominated everyone through controlling these centers and mosques. This led to a general state of frustration and fear of the unknown under the Brotherhood’s governance.
The situation this year provided a clear contrast to last year, especially in the countryside. This indicates the importance of the countryside and villages in future decisions. Egypt is not only Cairo and the governorates’ capitals. It’s not Tahrir, Rabia al-Aadawiya, Ennahda squares or El-Qaed Ibrahim Mosque.
The Egyptian countryside is the basis of Egyptian society and the origins of the Egyptian people.Abdel Latif el-Menawy
Egypt is a country consisting of more than 5,000 villages where tens of millions of people live. Concern for the countryside will be a decisive factor in the country’s future. A friend of mine who investigates the affairs of Islamist groups noted a few months ago that the threat, back then, did not lie in the Brotherhood’s power but rather in the influence of extremist Islamist groups. They are here preparing a new generation of extremists as they focus on recruiting young men. Such groups are still widespread and this is a phenomenon that needs to be addressed in order to protect the future.
An atmosphere of real comfort held sway in the squares where prayers were performed last Thursday. Some attributed this comfort to the fact that they are celebrating Eid without the Brotherhood in power - something they’ve prayed for all year. God was generous towards the Egyptians and the Muslims and responded to their prayers. The Egyptians felt calm and reassured over the future despite the fact that there are still threats resulting from the tensions the Brotherhood insists on creating. People went to pray in major squares and there was no Brotherhood - neither in presence nor in slogans. The Brotherhood has abandoned these traditional squares. Those Brotherhood members who attempted to go to these squares were unwelcome due to their stance on the June 30 revolution and due to their attempts to obstruct progress towards the future.
Backlash against the Brotherhood
In Egyptian villages, residents performed the Eid prayers in the usual squares. In some towns, the Brotherhood attempted to control the squares and expel the residents from them. In others, residents decisively refused to hang Eid banners signed by the Brotherhood or any of its leaders. The situation in some villages escalated into clashes, and residents pursued Brotherhood members. This particularly happened in towns where residents have been killed by the Brotherhood or their terrorist sympathizers in Sinai, like Kfour Najm in al-Ibrahimiah. Residents were overwhelmed by anger and frustration to the extent that they announced their intention to prevent Muslim Brotherhood members from participating in organizing this year’s Eid prayers and from contributing to honoring the Eid rituals or hanging banners congratulating people for Eid. This town has lost one of its sons in a terrorist attack on a military unit in Sinai.
Therefore, Brotherhood members were pursued, outcast or secluded in Egyptian towns during the Eid prayers. Some have decided to isolate themselves from the countrysie residents who reject them. These incidents have important consequences that must be taken into consideration.
The Egyptian countryside is the basis of Egyptian society and the origins of the Egyptian people. The Brotherhood occupied Egyptian towns in the absence of the state and the institutions’ abandonment of their roles. The extremist understanding of Islam reigned in the absence of a moderate voice and the extremists’ seizure of podiums at mosques. Mosques turned into factories producing a generation of terrorists and movements with a misguided understanding of Islam.
The reality of the Egyptian countryside must be understood and taken care of because it can now be the starting point of the centrist Egyptian state, just as it was before it became the starting point of the Brotherhood’s expanded seizure of power. Countryside residents have realized the Brotherhood’s reality and expelled them. An example of that is what happened during this Eid’s prayers. If we really want to save Egypt, then this is the chance to build new bridges of trust and respect between the state and its towns.
This article was first published in al-Masry al-Youm on August 11, 2013.
Abdel Latif el-Menawy is an author, columnist and multimedia journalist who has covered conflicts around the world. He is the author of “Tahrir: the last 18 days of Mubarak,” a book he wrote as an eyewitness to events during the 18 days before the stepping down of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Menawy’s most recent public position was head of Egypt’s News Center. He is a member of the National Union of Journalists in the United Kingdom, and the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate. He can be found on Twitter @ALMenawy
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